HISTORY OF NORFOLK ISLAND - INTO THE 20th CENTURY

From 1897, Norfolk Island was administered by the colony of New South Wales.  This continued until January 1st, 1901 when New South Wales became a state of the Commonwealth of Australia.  Norfolk was not, however, incorporated into the Commonwealth and was not annexed.  It was considered supervised, but not owned by the country of Australia.

            

For the island there was some progress, though.  A cable station was built at Anson bay and Norfolk Island was connected to the rest of the world via Morse code, which alleviated a lot of the isolation.  However, all was not harmonious such as when Governor Sir Harry Rawson in 1908 demanded that the islanders who resided in Kingston, namely in the old convict-era buildings, to renounce all ownership rights or to be evicted.  Sadly, most of them were duly evicted, but there were some who would not take this meekly and burnt down their houses in protest.

            

The Parliament of Australia accepted the territory of Norfolk Island from the British in the Norfolk Island Act of 1913, and the island was placed under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1914.  Many Norfolk Islanders served in the First World War and some did not return, as did so many around the world.  The first ANZAC service held on Norfolk was on April 25th, 1921.

            

Following the war, the Melanesian Mission finally departed from Norfolk in 1920 and moved to Siota in the Nggela Islands.  The Norfolk Islanders also built an 18 meter trading schooner from local timbers and it was called Resolution, however, though there were initial high hopes, she was never profitable as a trader.

           

Norfolk Island was visited for the first time by an airplane in 1930.  It was piloted by Francis Chichester (who would in 1966-67 make more fame for himself by sailing around the world in the famous Gipsy Moth IV).  In a DeHavilland Gipsy Moth fitted with floats borrowed from the New Zealand Permanent Air Force, he landed at Cascade Bay.  One of the floats had sprung a leak so he had it repaired and then the plane was towed overland to Emily Bay where he took off and went on to Lord Howe Island.

            

As the 1930’s drew closer to the war-torn 1940’s, Charles Rosenthal accepted the post as administrator of Norfolk Island, succeeding Charles Robert Pinney.  He was to be the administrator throughout the years of the Second World War.  He would prove to be an energetic leader and accomplished much, which included (but was not limited to) support of tree planting and the conservation of old convict and historically significant buildings, fostering education, renovating the hospital, and when the war was underway he raised a volunteer infantry unit.

            

When war did break out, Norfolk became an airbase and refuelling depot between Australia and New Zealand (and New Zealand and the Solomon Islands).  An airstrip was needed, and it was determined that the place known as “Avenue of Pines” would be the perfect place for one.  The locals were considerably upset when this landmark was razed to the ground to make way for the runway, which was built by Australian, New Zealand and U.S. servicemen in 1942.  On Christmas Day of that year, the first New Zealand Air Force plane landed on Norfolk Island’s new runway.

            

During the War, more Norfolk Islanders served their homeland and more laid down their lives for it.  During this time Norfolk garrisoned the New Zealand Army unit known as “N Force,” which relieved a company of the Second Australia Imperial Force.  They were housed at a large army camp on the island.  “N Force” left the island in February, 1944 when it was deemed that the island was not under threat any more.

            

During the later years of the war and the years succeeding it, Rosenthal set about building a place known today as “Rawson Hall.”  The original had been built many years previously and named after Governor Harry Rawson of New South Wales.  However, when realigning the airstrip it was in the way so hence it was demolished.  Rosenthal ended his term on December 31st, 1945; though he remained on the island until 1948 when he returned to Sydney (he died in 1954).  The new Rawson hall was done shortly before Rosenthal left the island, and today it is used for community events, such as the Bounty Ball and a polling station for the islands elections.


  Please 'contact us' for more information.